I was living in New York City and working as a flight attendant for a major airline during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Recognizing one of the terrorists in the newspaper following the event and scheduled to work a transcontinental flight that day, I decided it was just too close for comfort and went for a vacation in Hawai‘i. I fell in love with the land and a special person and soon moved to Waikiki.
As an artist in New York City, I was always finding my supplies on the street. People don’t have garage/yard sales and don’t take the time to donate or sell their goods. I found lots of beautiful antiques, furniture, art supplies, etc. When I moved to Waikiki, the discarded items were very different. It always seemed to be the same items: ironing boards, beds, refrigerators, stoves, fans. The items were mostly generic, yet highly personal. Granted it took some courage to touch them and my partner was not thrilled with my new obsession. I wasn’t even sure why I was really excited about refrigerator doors. I grew up in the 1960s and discarded refrigerators were considered death traps to children playing hide and seek. It still seemed scary to touch them.
I have primarily been studying performance art as a graduate student at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in the fibers program, but I am a jack of all trades and have spent the last two years sculpting social traps that society creates or we create for ourselves. These became my “Ironic Maiden” series: Domesticity, Beauty, and Memories and mostly were about my mother hating housework and selling Avon to get out of the house and my own demons following me from childhood. (I just now realized that the discarded refrigerators of the 60s were actually iron maidens!)
Since space and especially studio space is so difficult to obtain in Hawai’i, I have also used parts of these three large sculptures for my installation at the Academy, Paradise: Lost and Found. This exhibition is a miniature golf course using the discarded appliances, my soon-to-be-discarded sculptures, lots of artificial kitsch, and some goods from the local thrift stores as well as from my childhood home in Independence, Missouri.
It is not going to be a typical mini golf course, though. As I began obtaining all these items (and overloading my studio!), these items not only told the story of consumption of today, but also my personal narrative. How did we get to this place, where throwing a mattress on the street is okay when a homeless person is sleeping on the concrete sidewalk? Why do some of these appliances look brand new, yet it is cheaper to discard them than to fix them? The miniature golf story that I am telling has become my thesis for my graduate degree in Fine Arts and will also be on display in the Commons Gallery at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa October 10-14, 2011. It has become mostly once again about my mother, myself, and society. But, this time I have realized the source: the Cold War mentality.
The Cold War changed the face of America and I lived in the heart of it. I was raised thinking shows like Leave it to Beaver displayed a typical family with the doting housewife/mother and the bread-winning father with two normal children. Our family did not fit this mold, even though we desperately attempted it, and not being the Cleavers meant you were a failure. Therefore, this mini golf course will not properly work. There will be traps and unattainable goals.
So far I have been working hard on it for nearly a week, it is not up and running yet but getting there. Hopefully it will be running by next weekend and changing daily. In addition, Shawzy brought her ceramic sculpture class over from the Academy Art Center and they will be watching me progress on a weekly basis. They had lots of great questions and are an aspiring group of young artists with a great teacher and assistant! Hope you too come and participate!